Ethiopia attack: British survivor endures 12-hour ordeal on volcano
Briton and other survivors were stranded on edge of the Erta Ale crater
after ambush that left five Europeans dead
* William Davison in Addis Ababa and
> David Smith in Johannesburg
> guardian.co.uk, Thursday 19 January
2012 17.37 GMT
A British tourist was among a group that endured a 12-hour ordeal on the
edge of an Ethiopian volcano after a terrifying ambush that left five
Two Germans and two Ethiopians
ia> were kidnapped in the pre-dawn attack on Tuesday in one of the world's
lowest and hottest regions, known as the Danakil Depression. The search for
the gunmen and hostages continues.
The group of 27 tourists had been visiting
Erta Ale volcano, one of <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/ethiopia
Ethiopia's most active, in the northern Afar region. Armed escorts had
remained at the bottom of the volcano, as is common practice.
"They trekked up the volcano alone before bedding down," said a diplomatic
source in Addis Ababa. "They were unguarded overnight."
Ethiopian authorities have said the group was targeted by as many as 40
After the incident, the middle-aged British tourist and other survivors were
stranded on the edge of the Erta Ale crater for more than 12 hours, the
source said. It was not clear why the security team failed to launch a
search party for them.
Finally the group managed to make contact with a German tour company that
contacted the German embassy in Addis Ababa to organise a helicopter rescue.
The UK citizen was medevaced from the city of Mekele on Thursday to an
unidentified neighbouring country to seek treatment. There is no indication
of whether he suffered bullet wounds.
"He has been through a very serious ordeal," the diplomatic source said. "He
is in a serious, but stable condition."
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that a British national
was involved in an incident on January 17 in Danakil. We are providing
Two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian were killed, according to
Interpol. Two German tourists and an Ethiopian policeman and driver were
Authorities in Afar said they have sent elders to try to secure the release
of the hostages. Ismael Ali Sero, president of the Afar Region, told
state-run Ethiopian Television: "The region is doing all it can to have them
Ali Sero did not disclose whether the group had already made contact with
the captors or if officials had located their hideout. The Ethiopian
government said those kidnapped have been taken across the border into
Eritrea, about 12 to 15 miles away.
In 2007, a group including British embassy staff from Addis Ababa was taken
hostage in the region and released a week later via the Eritrean capital,
Some of this week's tourists were said to be travelling with Addis
Ababa-based Green Land Tours and Travel. Others were booked by a company in
Germany called Diamir. The company said it deeply regretted what had
happened and that it had no previous indication of risk to guests' security
in the region.
A Hungarian, a Belgian and a citizen of another country who resides in
Brussels were wounded in the attack and have been taken to a hospital in
Mekele, northern Ethiopia's biggest city.
The incident has sparked a fresh war of words between Ethiopia and its
neighbour, Eritrea. The Ethiopian government said: "It is already clear that
the attack was carried out with the direct involvement of the Eritrean
Ethiopia "will be obliged to take whatever action is necessary to stop the
activities of the Eritrean regime once and for all unless the international
community assumes its responsibilities and takes the necessary steps to
bring this abominable behaviour to an end," it added.
Eritrea's ambassador to the African Union, Girma Asmerom, has said the
allegations are an "absolute lie" and that the attack was an internal
The two countries fought a border war from 1998 to 2000, claiming the lives
of about 80,000 people.
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Received on Fri Jan 20 2012 - 10:17:05 EST